Following the lead of other Power Five leagues, the Big 12 announced Monday night that its teams will play only 10 games this season — nine conference games and one non-conference matchup — because of the coronavirus.
The Big 12 made the announcement after its board of directors, a group made up of university presidents, voted to ratify the schedule proposal put forth by athletic directors.
The start of the season is still unclear as the league announced the season will start “sometime between mid- to late-September.” It’s expected that the one non-conference game will come first.
A Texas source said the Longhorns’ non-conference opponent is likely to be UTEP, although no final decision has been made. The two teams were already scheduled to play on Sept. 19.
The season could start on that date, but it could be pushed back another week to Sept. 26, putting the Big 12 in line with other Power Five leagues. The league has looked at putting in extra bye weeks to account for temporary stoppages should a team experience an outbreak of COVID-19.
The league also announced the Big 12 championship game will be held either Dec. 12 or Dec. 19. The Athletic reported that Globe Life Field, the Arlington baseball stadium that once hosted the XFL, could also be in play to hold that event.
“I would like to salute the work of our university presidents and chancellors, athletics directors, coaches, medical advisors and administrators who have worked tirelessly and collaboratively during these extraordinary times,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward. However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”
From a non-conference scheduling standpoint, what happens to the South Florida and LSU games? For the Bulls, it could be a financial back-breaker.
South Florida was scheduled to earn $1.9 million for coming to Austin and playing Texas in the season opener, according to the game contract obtained through open records. That’s now off, for now, but it’s likely the game could simply be rescheduled at a later date.
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said the LSU game, scheduled for Sept. 12 in Baton Rouge, La., will definitely be made up, although it could be years down the road.
There are a host of reasons for Texas to play UTEP, UT officials have said privately. First and foremost, it’s a school within the UT system, and there would be immense pressure from the UT System Board of Regents to keep that game. The two schools have also signed a multi-game agreement.
Also, school officials believe they can better monitor what’s happening with COVID-19 in El Paso than they could Tampa, Fla., where USF is located. The Miners are scheduled to earn $1.4 million for playing the Longhorns at Royal-Memorial Stadium, according to the game contract.
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